John A. Gordon
Database Record Change Request
|Name at Enlist
John A. Gordon
John Ard Gordon
22 Jan 1832 – 17 Oct 1911
Orono, Penobscot County, ME
|Resident of Muster-In
Beloit, Rock County, WI
|Company at Enlistment
|Rank at Enlistment
14 Dec 1861
Omaha, Douglas, NE
Oak Lawn Cemetery, Beloit, Rock County, WI
John Ard Gordon was born on January 22, 1832 in Orono, Penobscot County, ME. His parents were Alexander Gordon and Cynthia H. In 1850, the family had relocated to Beloit, Rock County, WI.
In 1860, John A. Gordon and his family were living in Beloit, WI. His wife’s name was Ellen and son, Fred (1859). John worked as a druggist.
Gordon enlisted in the 15th WI on September 18, 1861, making him one of the earliest men to do so. He was also one of the very few native-born Americans who served in the 15th. Over the next few months he was involved in helping to recruit the men who would make up most of Company G the 15th. The men of that company called themselves the “Rock River Rangers” after the river that flows several of the WI counties where many of its members were living at the time of their enlistment.
At the recommendation of Colonel Hans C. Heg, the 15th’s commander, John A. Gordon, was commissioned as the Captain of Company G by WI Governor Alexander Randall on January 10, 1862. Captain Gordon’s rank was made retroactive to December 14, 1861. He was mustered into Federal service for a 3-year term of service on January 14, 1862 at Camp Randall near Madison, Dane County, WI. At the time he was listed as 30 years old and married. His residence was recorded as Beloit, WI.
At the time of its formation Company G had 3 officers: Captain Gordon, who commanded the company; 1st Lieutenant Charles B. Nelson who ran the company for the officers. All together there were about 90 men in the company.
After about 2 months at Camp Randall learning to be an officer and training his men to be soldiers, Captain Gordon left there on March 2, 1862 with his company and regiment to join the war. He would have then participated in the successful siege of Island No. 10 on the Mississippi River in TN and the surprise raid on Union City, TN in March and April 1862. The Confederate forces on Island No. 10 surrendered to Union forces on April 8, 1862, and the 15th took control of the island.
At Colonel Heg’s recommendation, 1st Lieutenant Hauff was appointed as the 15th’s acting regimental Adjutant on May 3, 1862, leaving Company G with only 2 officers. On June 11, 1862, Colonel Heg led 8 of the 15th’s 10 companies away from Island No. 10 by steamboat, never to return. Companies G and I were left behind on extended guard duty. The 2 companies would not rejoin the rest of the regiment for 15 months. During that time the other 8 companies participated in several campaigns as well as the battles at Perryville, KY, at Murfreesboro (Stone River), TN and at Chickamauga, GA.
Initially the soldiers of Companies G and I were camped across the Mississippi River from Island No. 10 on the TN side at New Madrid Bend. There they were engaged in capturing Confederate soldiers who had escaped when the island was captured and hunting down, sometimes on horseback, local groups of rebel guerrillas who were resisting the Union occupation. The area around Island No. 10 was considered to be unhealthy and many of the 15th soldiers became ill there, with several dying of disease. In early October 1862, their camp, which consisted of 150 men, was attacked just before dawn by 300 Confederate Cavalry. The attack was badly managed and quickly repulsed with virtually no loss, but afterwards the Union camp was moved over to Island No. 10. There the 15th soldiers were safe from attack behind the Confederate-built fortifications with their 80 cannons. A drawing of the 15th’s camp on the island can be viewed by clicking HERE.
In December 1862, a curious incident threatened their safety and caused the 15th’s soldiers to repeatedly refuse orders. Union General Thomas E. Davis sent an order to the Island ordering the soldiers to spike the cannons and throw their ammunition into the Mississippi River to keep it from being captured by the Confederates. In reality there were no Confederates nearby and the 15th soldiers were safe from attack on the island, so they repeatedly refused to obey the orders. Finally the General sent an officer to the island who forced the men to obey. The 15th soldiers managed to save a great deal of the ammunition and destroy the cannons in such a way that they could still be repaired, though for 3 days afterward the island was almost completely defenseless. Once U.S. Major General U. S. Grant heard of these strange orders he relieved General Davies of command and life returned to normal at the island.
In January 1863, 1st Sergeant Nelson was commissioned as the new 1st Lieutenant of Company G, filling the vacancy created when 1st Lieutenant Hauff was made the 15th’s Adjutant. That same month 2nd Lieutenant Montgomery was commissioned as the new Captain of Company I. The vacancy created by this promotion was never filled. From February to June 1863, Captain Gordon served as post commander at Island No. 10, by order of U.S. Brigadier General Asboth.
On August 19, 1863, Companies G and I exchanged their old Belgian weapons for new British Enfield .58 caliber rifled muskets. On September 2, 1863, the 2 companies were ordered to rejoin the rest of the 15th. After a 3-week trip by steamboat, railroad train, and foot they were reunited with the remnants of the regiment at Chattanooga, TN. They arrived there on the morning of September 20, 1863, and could hear fighting in the distance at Chickamauga, GA — the second bloodiest battle of the Civil War. As Companies G and I listened the regiment’s other 8 companies were being decimated: some 63% of the 15th’s soldiers who were at Chickamauga were killed, wounded, or taken prisoner. In fact the next morning, when all the 15th’s companies were finally reunited, Companies G and I had more than twice the number of men than were left in the other 8 companies, combined.
Because all the 15th’s field officers had been killed, severely wounded, or captured at Chickamauga the regiment was under the command of Captain Mons Grinager of Company K. However, Captain Gordon was senior to Captain Grinager, and so on September 29, 1863, Gordon took command of the shattered remains of the 15th. Captain Gordon then led the regiment during the Confederate siege of Chattanooga, TN, which began right after the battle. The siege caused severe shortages of food, medicine, and firewood which, combined with cold, wet weather caused much suffering, sickness, and death.
Starting October 13, 1863, almost the entire regiment was assigned as Guards for an Army supply wagon train that was sent from Chattanooga, over the mountains to the Federal depot at Stevenson, AL. This was by all accounts a physically challenging and dangerous trip. The regiment was once again together back in Chattanooga in early November 1863. The Confederate siege was finally broken by the Union Army’s victorious charge up Mission Ridge near Chattanooga on November 25, 1863, which the 15th took part in. Captain Gordon commanded the regiment as it stormed the ridge. The next day Major George Wilson returned from convalescent leave and took command of the 15th, allowing Captain Gordon to resume command of Company G.
Starting right after Mission Ridge, the 15th was engaged in almost non-stop marching and counter-marching all over Eastern TN throughout the Winter of 1863/1864. By many original accounts, this was the worst period of the regiment’s 3-year term of service. Poor rations, inadequate clothing and shelter, and unseasonably cold weather made these months nearly unbearable.
Starting in early May 1864, the 15th participated in U.S. Major General William T. Sherman’s famous campaign to capture Atlanta, GA. This campaign was marked by almost daily marching and/or combat for 4 months. During the campaign the 15th took part in fighting at Rocky Face Ridge, GA in early May; at the bloody Battle of Resaca, GA on May 14-15; and at the disastrous Battle of Pickett’s Mill (often called Dallas or New Hope Church) on May 27, 1864. There the 15th suffered 50% casualties, including 29 soldiers who were taken prisoner, most of whom later died of starvation-related diseases in the infamous Andersonville Prison Camp. Company G lost 1 man killed, Lieutenant Nelson and 5 enlisted men wounded, and 5 men captured (3 of whom died in prison). By the end of the fighting at Pickett’s Mill, Captain Gordon was the only officer left in Company G.
During the campaign the 15th also fought at Kenesaw Mountain, GA on June 23; at Atlanta on July 22; at Jonesboro, GA on September 1; and at Lovejoy Station on September 4, 1864. After a rest following the capture of Atlanta in early September 1864, the 15th was briefly assigned to Provost (police) duty in Chattanooga in early October. This was followed by several months of guarding a railroad bridge at Whitesides, TN, near Chattanooga, which some of the 15th’s soldiers felt was the easiest duty of their entire war service. For a time in December 1864, Captain Gordon was ordered on special duty as the 15th’s Provost (chief military policeman).
On January 13, 1865, Captain Gordon and 31 other surviving members of Company G were mustered out of Federal service upon the end of their 3-year terms of service. Captain Gordon was one of the very few captains in the 15th who led their company for the full 3-year term of service. After muster out he and his men were sent north to WI and released to their homes. The other two-thirds of his company had previously died or been discharged from the army due to physical disabilities caused by wounds or illness.
Buslett’s 1895 history of the 15th WI contains this statement about him:
“Captain Gordon was an American. Since the war he has been a respected man and a useful member of society.”
After the war in 1880, Gordon and his family lived in Omaha, NE and he worked as a bookkeeper.
Sources: Genealogical data from Dennis A Craddick; Det Femtende Regiment, Wisconsin Frivillige [The Fifteenth Regiment, Wisconsin Volunteers], Ole A. Buslett (Decorah, Iowa, 1894); Oberst Heg og Hans Gutter [Colonel Heg and His Boys], Waldemar Ager (Eau Claire, Wisconsin, 1916); The Civil War Letters of Colonel Hans Christian Heg, Theodore C. Blegen (Northfield, Minnesota, 1936); Regimental Descriptive Rolls, Volume 20, Office of the Adjutant General State of Wisconsin (Madison, Wisconsin, 1885); Roster of Wisconsin Volunteers, War of the Rebellion, 1861-1865, Volume I, Office of the Adjutant General State of Wisconsin (Madison, Wisconsin, 1886); 1860 Census, Roll: M653_1430, Page: 60, Image: 65, Family History Library Film: 805430; 1880 Census, Roll: 748, Family History Film: 1254748, Page: 334A, Enumeration District: 024, Image: 0248; findagrave.com; 1850 Census, GS Film #444992, Image #00380.